Rest and Recovery – Why is it so important for runners?

This is the time of the year that you have trained for – be it your first 5km, City2Surf, a half marathon or even a full marathon. As we hit running season, all the runners out there are heading towards the goals that they have been working for all year long, and it seems to be a common theme that I am asked by runners after reaching their goal –

• Am I able to push harder and run further?
• How much rest or recovery do I really need to ensure I do not injure myself?

In short, the answer is, everyone is different in what their body may require in regards to rest periods and length of recovery. You need to understand what works for you and learn to listen to what your body is telling you.

Throughout the year, a vital component of any running program includes a strengthening and stretching program to ensure muscles and joints move freely and contract and extend at maximum capability. So after a race it is important to ensure these training needs are still met but generally in a less intense manner, i.e. recovery sessions.

Recovery Sessions can be performed in a number of different ways –

• Reduced load (lighter weights)
• Reduced intensity (less sets, reps or slower runs)
• Reduced time (shorter sessions)
• Changed type (perform different types of training than normally performed, i.e. active recovery)

Over-training is a big problem for many runners and overuse injuries contribute to the cause of more than half of the injuries sustained by runners. After a stint of exercise the primary muscles used, go through a form of ‘micro-tearing’. This micro-tearing is important for physiological changes to occur in order for positive adaptations (e.g. muscle building, speed, etc.), but this micro-tearing also means that there is trauma in the muscles and during the post-training session the body requires time to recover. If sufficient recovery time is not given, weakness begins to occur and injuries will eventually follow.

Over-training can also lead to:

• Decreased immune system
• Decline in performance
• Excessive fatigue
• Slow healing of injuries
• Higher heart rate than normally experienced during training

As I am sure most runners know and do, you follow a tapering period prior to a big event to allow the body sufficient rest to achieve great results. This tapering period is encompassed within a bigger picture, known as periodisation.

Periodisation is looking at different cycles in a training program and changing the intensity or volume variables to promote positive training results. It is a vital component to prevent over-training and improve running results. Progressing too quickly will potentially land you back on the lounge with your foot in a moon boot due to a stress fracture or tendonitis or some other running-related injury. Training programs need to allow for the body to make the adaptation before the stimulus is increased too rapidly.

The amount and type of rest required will depend on individuals and how each body responds to a recent exercise session, be it a race or normal training. Generally speaking though, the higher the intensity of the exercise session, the lighter the recovery session will be. Although as you become more conditioned to the training, the easier your body will recover and active recovery may become more appropriate.

Active Recovery is different from rest days. Active recovery allows you to complete exercise at a lower intensity from your usual training so it still promotes movement and encourages flexibility and removal of training by-products that lead to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

Some techniques that you can use for Active Recovery include –

• Massage
• Foam rolling
• Stretching
• Yoga
• Walking
• Light jogging
• Swimming

Also ensure adequate sleep, hydration and appropriate nutrition to allow your body to work at its best capacity. When you are coming down with a cold or the flu, again adequate rest is necessary as the immune system is already lowered and pushing it beyond its boundary can only further decrease the immune system and fatigue will set in, leading to potential injuries.

If you are unsure when rest and recovery should be incorporated into your training program please seek advice from your coach or exercise physiologist to maximise your results and decrease injury risk.

Rachel’s Runners has expert coaches and affiliated health professionals who can help keep you on the road to recovery. Contact us today – info@rachelsrunners.com

Article by –
Stacey Kelleher
Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Remedial Massage Therapist
M.Clinical.Ex.Physiol. (Rehab) AEP AES MESSA,
B. App Sc. (Sp&Ex.Sc),
Dip. Rem. M (AAMT), Certificate Dry Needling

 

 

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